About Cheakamus Community Forest
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In 2005, the Province of British Columbia announced an opportunity to determine the fate of thousands of hectares of forest surrounding Whistler. The province offered Whistler, as well as the communities of Pemberton and Squamish, an opportunity to submit a community forest proposal that would give them a tenure license to harvest 10,000 cubic metres (m3) of wood annually.
After many discussions among neighbouring communities, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), Squamish and Lil’Wat Nations joined forces to propose the creation of a 55,000 hectare community forest. The joint venture reflected an important cultural reality: Whistler and its adjacent lands are part of the traditional territory shared by the Squamish and Lil’wat people.
In November 2007, the three Sea-to-Sky governments signed a letter of intent with the Province of BC. Of particular note, was the fact the then unnamed community forest would be one of the first forest operations in BC to employ Ecosystem Based Management. This holistic approach to environmental management considers all aspects, including the human factor, of an ecosystem and determines the best way to ensure its health.
By partnering, the RMOW, Squamish and Lil’wat Nations were able to employ the strategies outlined in each of their communities land use plans into their plans for governance of the forested lands. The importance of sound land management practices to support long-term economic, social and ecological goals resonated through all three plans, effectively putting the partners on the same page. Eventually, the amount of land in the proposed tenure was negotiated between the group and the Province to the forest’s current size: 30,280 hectares.
Through discussion and community dialogue, the three regional governments developed a plan that would see forestry management emphasize recreation values, watershed protection, visual quality and cultural values. Almost half of the forest, 15,000 hectares, would continue to be protected from harvesting through mechanisms such as Old Growth (nearly 50 per cent of the trees are designated old growth forest) and Ungulate Winter Range status designation.
In April, 2009, the RMOW, Lil’wat and Squamish Nations, under the banner of the Cheakamus Community Forest, entered an agreement with the Ministry of Forests and Range. This unique, historical covenant gave the group jurisdiction over the forestland surrounding Whistler, a forest now known as the Cheakamus Community Forest.
The Cheakamus Community Forest is governed by a non-profit society comprised of representatives from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Lil’wat and Squamish Nations. While Whistler is perhaps best known as North America’s premier ski resort, it is also part of the shared traditional lands of these two First Nations. These three partners share equally in the management of the forest. Each partner has representation on the Cheakamus Community Forest Society (CCF) — an independent, not-for-profit organization.
Whistler is a Coast Mountain community approximately 125 kilometres north of Vancouver. The town has a permanent population of about 10,000, plus a significant population of seasonal workers. More than 2.5 million people per year visit the four-season resort. A mayor and six-member council who are elected to three-year terms, govern the resort municipality.
The Squamish Nation is comprised of 23 “villages” throughout southwestern British Columbia, from the town of Squamish, 45 kilometres south of Whistler, down to the Burrard Inlet and west over to Gibson’s Landing. The nation’s population is just over 3,300 members, two-thirds of whom live on reserve land. The Squamish Nation is governed by 16 councilors, elected to four-year terms.
The Lil’wat Nation, also known as the Mount Currie Indian Band, is located approximately 40 kilometres north of Whistler. Currently, there are 2,007 band members registered, almost 1,350 of whom live on reserve. The band’s 12-member chief and council are elected to two-year terms.
Cheakamus Community Forest Board of Directors 2019
- Chief Bill Williams, Squamish Nation
- Jeff Fisher, Squamish Nation
- Greg Bikadi, Lil’wat Nation
- Kerry Mehaffey, Lil’wat Nation
- John Grills, Resort Municipality of Whistler
- Arthur DeJong, Resort Municipality of Whistler